Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

The Danger Of Fascism With The Death Of RBG

The Danger Of Fascism With The Death Of RBG

 I try to avoid these terms like “fascism,” but it has become clear that Donald J. Trump actively seeks to become an at least authoritarian leader of the US, indeed openly arguing that the Constitution’s limit of only two terms should not hold for him.  We face a clear danger of a contested election that may end up in the Supreme Court. If Trump can put a flunky into the court before the election we may have them putting him in despite a situation where he has clearly lost. And given his recent behavior, backed by a friendly SCOTUS, he would be in position to impose a fascist dictatorship in this nation.

I also note that she died on Rosh Hashanah, and in the Jewish tradition this is a portentous time to die, with one doing so being especially blessed.  I do not know how all this will turn out, and I can think of scenarios where her death at this time may lead to a more progressive future, but she was a very great woman deserving of the most profound respect and admiration, who should rest in the greatest of peace.

Clearly, Mitch McConnell hypocritically seeks to impose a Trump appointee before the election, or if not then, during the following lame-duck session.  So far Romney (R-UT) and Murkowski (R-AK) have said they will not go along with this, but two more GOP Sens must step forward to block this. That may happen.  But if it does not, then the Dem senators must simply shut the Senate down, which I think is about the only thing they can do, given that the filibuster was abolished (by Dems)for judicial appointments. But I think they can simply bring the whole place to a halt, and it may come to that.

Barkley Rosser

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COVID-19, Moderna Therapeutics mRNA Vaccine, and Crichton

I understood how some combinations of drugs work in attacking Covid-19 with one drug acting as an ionophore allowing another drug to enter a cell and attach to Covid RNA stopping its replication. I found this nice chart on National Geographic offering up an educational semi -medical and microbiologist depiction of how Moderna’s new vaccine mRNA gives the human body the ability to attack Covid.  I duplicated the chart with the original wording on Power Point. Click on either chart to make them larger.

Where we are today, Some history, and Where this is going

Morderna’s mRNA has moved into a Phase III Clinical Trial stage testing in the treatment of Covid-19. It is considered to be more successful than the other drugs and it is being fast-tracked (Operation Warp-Speed [or “Tribble Infestation”]) by the administration. On May 18 of this year, Moderna Therapeutics announced preliminary findings that healthy subjects had responded to mRNA vaccine by producing “neutralizing antibodies” which is how the vaccine works in the treatment of Covid. The antibodies made by the immune system prevent infection by the coronavirus.

When a virus infects a body, the immune system scrambles to recognize and create a response. The more traditional results of vaccine development is the introduction of an inactivated or weakened form of a virus or introduce one of the virus’s viral proteins to the body. The immune system responds to the introduction by producing antibodies to counter the vaccine, recognizing particular proteins of the virus. Those antibodies can fight future infections as long as the virus does not evolve.

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The Combination of Things

What about all the forest fires in the West? The most proximate cause of these fires is high temperatures along with associated lightning and high winds; both of which, directly or indirectly, can easily ignite a fire in tinder dry forests.

Beyond beyond being dry, many western forest are far from being healthy. There are large areas in the southern Sierra Nevada Range where the forest are dead and gone; they were the first to go. There is less damage to the forest as one goes farther north; still, going east on Highway 108 up over the Sonora Pass, it is not unusual to see forest areas where upwards of half the trees are dead or dying. Most are dying from infestations of bark beetles. Healthy trees can survive bark beetles, but these trees were first weakened by long periods of drought. The damage has being worsening for decades.

Drought is not new in the West; there is ample scientific evidence of at least two extended periods of drought in California over the past 1200 hundred years. There is the possibility that we are entering such a period now. It is far more likely that what we are seeing is what has long been predicted by climate Change Models. Speaking of models, has everyone seen ProPublica’s, ‘New Climate Maps Show a Transformed United States’ https://projects.propublica.org/climate-migration/ ? Poor Texas. Near the end of the piece, future predictions down to every county in the US. And the models will only get better at predicting with more and better data.

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Jones v USPS

In Jones v USPS, the Postal Service provided weekly service performance data since the beginning of the year. This is the most complete picture of on-time performance that we’ve seen since the mail delays became an issue earlier this summer. The data set is discussed in this post. There was also a hearing today in the Jones case. We hope to have more on that later.

In the Washington case, an amicus brief was filed by the County of Santa Clara, the City of Columbus, and Thirty-Eight Local and Tribal Governments. The brief argues that the operational changes made by the Postal Service impede delivery and receipt of vote-by-mail, absentee, replacement, emergency, military, and overseas ballots, voter registration material, and outreach and education efforts. They also create significant burdens for officials administering elections and interfere with tribal government functions.

In the Washington case, the Postal Service filed a brief in opposition to the plaintiff’s motion for a preliminary injunction. As noted on Law360,”Between arguing that the states’ concerns were overblown and pointing to regulations that say the Postal Regulatory Commission and the Washington D.C. Circuit Court have exclusive jurisdiction over such complaints, the USPS said the court should not grant the proposed injunction to undo changes that have already been made.”

“This case is now about plaintiffs’ attempts to have this court oversee the day-to-day operations of USPS, based on a claim that courts have analogized to a ‘Hail Mary,’ to right wrongs that do not exist,” the brief said. “Plaintiffs’ legally deficient claims, arising from unsupported fears about the potential actions of USPS, do not warrant the extraordinary relief it seeks.” See the Law360 article for more details.

Lawsuits against DeJoy, USPS & Trump over mail delays and election mail, Save The Post Office, Steve Hutkins, September 16, 2020

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The Seven-Percent Solution: The Not-So-Secret Plan to Downsize the Postal Service

Steve Hutkins authors Save the Post Office on issues affecting the Post Office.

First, a disclaimer. The following analysis is largely speculative. It’s not based on insider information. The evidence comes from news articles, government reports, legal filings, and a few leaked internal USPS documents that were published on postal news sites. The analysis could be totally wrong.

The hypothesis is simply this: The Postal Service has embarked on a plan to reduce labor costs by about 7 percent. That represents approximately 67 million workhours, or the equivalent of about 33,000 jobs.

The analysis will also suggest that all the things we saw earlier this summer — the removal of blue collection boxes, the decommissioning of over 700 sorting machines, trucks leaving plants partially loaded or empty, letter carriers heading out on their routes with mail left behind, a presentation saying that overtime was being eliminated, post offices closing for lunch or earlier in the day, rumors of post offices closing completely — were not, as the Postal Service claimed, isolated incidents, business as usual, or the result of miscommunication between headquarters and local managers.

Rather, they were part of a comprehensive plan to eliminate tens of millions of workhours and downsize the Postal Service in significant ways.

The Seven-Percent Solution

According to its 10-K financial report, in FY 2019 the Postal Service experienced a total “controllable” loss of $3.4 billion. That doesn’t include another $5 billion or so in losses related to pension and retiree health care costs that the Postal Service didn’t pay.

To balance the books, the Postal Service can increase revenues, raise prices or cut costs. Revenue increases are difficult, since First Class letter volumes are falling and Congress has limited what new forms of business the Postal Service can expand into.

The Postal Service has already introduced a temporary rate increase on commercial parcels through the holidays, and it will raise rates again next year. But price increases on letters and flats are limited by law and increases on parcels are constrained by competition in the marketplace. In the past, increasing rates has basically helped the Postal Service keep up with rising costs but done little to reduce the losses.

That leaves cutting costs as the only way to make significant inroads. Given that nearly 80 percent of the Postal Service’s expenses are related to labor, cost cutting means one thing, reducing workhours.

In FY 2019, compensation and benefits costs totaled $47.5 billion. To offset a loss of $3.4 billion, the Postal Service would need to reduce these costs by about 7 percent.

Back in July, District Managers and Plant Managers around the country began sharing Standup Talks in which they outlined the downsizing plan to employees. The talks identify exactly how many workhours need to be eliminated in each district in the three areas of postal operations: mail processing, delivery, and post offices.

The talks indicate that there is a comprehensive plan to reduce workhours across the board by about 7 percent. Even though it hasn’t been stated outright, that goal appears to be a key element of the Postmaster General’s transformative plan for the Postal Service.

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Is Mail Delivery Taking Longer?

Is U.S. mail delivery becoming slower for First Class mail? A New York Times analysis of more than 28 million pieces of mail found that on-time delivery declined noticeably in July and August. This comes after PMG Louis DeJoy put cost-cutting measures in place. Delivery has sped up slightly since the summer but remains slower than earlier this year. Twenty-eight million pieces of first-class letters were tracked by SnailWorks. The results of the analysis shows how on-time delivery declined noticeably in July after the arrival of the new and politically aligned PMG Louis DeJoy and the start of his mandated policies to trim transportation costs.

It appears mail delivery did slow down in July and August.

As you already know, timely mail delivery has become a key part of the 2020 election outcome due to an unprecedented number of Americans who are likely to vote by mail to avoid visiting a polling place during the pandemic.

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The 2020 Presidential and Senate nowcast: the races congeal

The 2020 Presidential and Senate nowcast: the races congeal

 

Here is my weekly update on the 2020 elections, based on State rather than national polling in the past 30 days, since that directly reflects what is likely to happen in the Electoral College. Remember that polls are really only nowcasts, not forecasts. They are snapshots of the present; there is no guarantee they will be identical or nearly identical in early November.

Let’s begin with Trump’s approval. After several weeks of improvement, this week Trump’s approval eroded very slightly – but remains right in its normal range for the past 3 1/2 years:

 

It is safe to say that Trump’s post-convention, “law and order” bounce has plateaued (note there have not been any big BLM demonstrations in the past week that have produced pictures of burned-out businesses).

In any event, here is the updated map through September 5. To refresh, here is how  it works:

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To Do I, II, & III

The COVID-19 Pandemic, the inadequate response thereto, and the incompetency of the Trump Presidency in general, combined, have exposed our nation’s weaknesses and failings to an extent unknown since at least the Great Depression. This is likely a do or die moment for America. Recovery will be difficult. Improbable unless we are careful in our choice of goals and daring in our efforts to achieve them. The margins for error do not allow for dawdling. Attempting to just return to a time before Trump and The Pandemic would be disastrous. A time like this should also be seen as a time of opportunity.

First, we must rid ourselves of denominational economics such as Capitalism, Socialism, Hayekism, Free Marketism, … These, but ideologies, dogmas, that some would impose on economics, on the rest of us; have done the Nation great harm. They are, at their very best, reasonings of a time past. As likely to be the answer to today’s problems as Adam Smith is to rise from his grave.

As a first step toward becoming again competitive in today’s world; we must stop blindly paying twice as much for inferior healthcare, internet, and cellphone service,… as is being paid in other developed nations; and while we are at it, we need to solve our homeless problem. These are all essential services that should be provided to all. In the grand competition of things; we’re losing. Have been for a while. Were before the pandemic. Ideology is a luxury we can no longer afford.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done, and help with our wealth distribution problem, too, by taxing the piss out of the too rich and too profitable. Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Sheldon, Warren, …; fun and games are over guys, time for you to pay up.

Let’s pay for these things that need to be done by cutting the ‘Defense’ Budget in half. Halve the number of Generals, the number of Admirals, the number of Aircraft Carriers, the number of Missiles, …; and full-stop attacking other nations. Half of $720+Billion is $360+Billion; $360+Billion is aplenty for Defense, nothing for Attack, and about right for expanding Medicare to Medicare For All. Ike was right about that and Harry was right about health care.

I. Internet Access and Cellular Networks

All those fireman who died because of poor communication on 9/11/2001 should have taught us the need for an ubiquitous cellular network. Mobile radio networks separate cellular networks should have shown us the need for one network. A police car with a half dozen radio antennas on the roof is ridiculous.

So, too, the fact that our cell phone uses a cellular network, our computers use a cable based internet service, and that we need a WIFI router to use our laptops. What’s now the cellular network should be the WIFI router and these routers should be all over our homes, all over every floor in every building, everywhere on our streets, and all across and over rural America. Ubiquitous. Today, thousands and thousands of teachers across America are trying to remotely teach kids, many of whom have very limited internet access, over an internet system that is not reliable. When the fires struck Santa Rosa, the cell towers went down. The internet w/ phones must work at all times during normal times and during times of emergency; needs to be bullet proof. This new inclusive internet is too critical to be trusted to the ‘Market’. Cell phone and Internet should be one and that one should be regulated as a public utility; a service, as a service application, and, as always, the application dictates. Not the ‘Market’.

As a Post Office service, maybe?

In order to fully utilize our Nation’s productivity, better fulfill our personal lives, and assist in times of emergency, the Internet needs be ubiquitous and bulletproof. We should be able to access the internet from our backyards, on a hike, in the mountains, in transit, …; from anywhere we are or can be. It was a big mistake letting cable companies have the internet and the cell phone companies the phone towers. Let the cable companies have Cable TV. Internet and cell phone transmission should be one and the same; should be a Public Utility. It isn’t about ideology, it’s about how it should be; what should be. Half-arsed won’t get it. If we continue to stick with ideology and dogma, China, Japan, and the EU will continue to eat our lunch.

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Trump’s Law & Order = Ronnie Thompson’s Shoot First and Ask Questions Later

(Dan here…this post has been lightly edited in format for readability)

Trump’s Law & Order = Ronnie Thompson’s Shoot First and Ask Questions Later

Summer Concepcion reports on something I find very alarming: President Trump leaned into his self-proclamation of being the President of “law and order” further as he appeared to approve of the “retribution” of federal law enforcement officers fatally shooting a man suspected of killing a pro-Trump supporter amid protests in Portland, during an interview on Fox News that aired Saturday night. After mocking Portland mayor Ted Wheeler for refusing Trump’s offer to send in federal troops to the city to quell protests, the President then turned his focus to the fatal shooting earlier this month of Michael Forest Reinoehl — a man suspected of killing a member of the Patriot Prayer group during violent clashes in Portland — by U.S. Marshals.
“We sent in the U.S. Marshals for the killer, the man who killed the young man on the street. He shot him… just cold blooded killed him,” Trump said. “Two and a half days went by, and I put out ‘when are you going to go get him?’ And the U.S. Marshals went in to get him, and they ended up in a gunfight.” Trump called Reinoehl a “violent criminal” before suggesting that his extrajudicial killing was par for the course. “This guy was a violent criminal, and the U.S. Marshals killed him,” Trump said. “And I will tell you something — that’s the way it has to be. There has to be retribution when you have crime like this.”
I went to college in Macon, Georgia when Ronnie Thompson was mayor. Quinton David Palmer, a thirteen-year-old Macon child, brought this lawsuit against Macon Police Officers Roger Hall and Larry Foster, Macon Mayor Ronnie Thompson and the individual aldermen[1] of the City of Macon for his being unconstitutionally and unlawfully shot by Police Officer Hall on February 18, 1973 …
RONNIE THOMPSON MAYOR CITY OF MACON GEORGIA 31201 June 19, 1970 EXECUTIVE ORDER FROM: MAYOR RONNIE THOMPSON TO: CHIEF J. F. FLYNT As you know we are receiving more and more threats from a few dissenting people who are interested only in violence. Anyone trying to cause violence in the City of Macon must be dealt with accordingly. People engaged in burning, looting, killing, and the destruction of property, etc. must answer to the strongest reply available. Lawlessness designed to produce anarchy and the destruction of the City of Macon will not be tolerated. No policeman, no volunteer policeman will be asked to face the enemy unarmed. See that we have sufficient arms, ammunition and equipment. Those people engaged in lawlessness and anarchy must be stopped. SHOOT TO KILL!
Mayor Thompson called this “shoot first and ask questions later” and argued this order should be carried out even if a person was merely taking a $2 shirt. Quinton David Palmer was a 13 year old black boy who was merely carrying a BB gun.

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Covid Vaccine Tracker

In a  recent conversation with one person who I would consider knowledgeable, I was led to this site. COVID-19 Live Vaccine Tracker. This is an initial rundown of various Covid vaccines being worked on by international companies and the phase they are in today. I will attempt to update this from time to time.

“A compilation of the active vaccine candidates being studied for coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) cures. This tracker will update periodically and will have the latest news and information.” The COVID-19 Live Vaccine Tracker, ContagionLive

Phase 3

Vaccine Name: mRNA-1273
Company: Moderna
Moderna’s phase 1 trial, mRNA-1273 vaccine: Results of treating novel coronavirus (COVID-19) were published July 14, 2020 in The New England Journal of Medicine. The NEJM reported on the results of potential vaccine induced protective responses in 45 adult participants receiving doses of 25, 100, or 250 μg (micrograms) throughout March and April 2020.  Antibodies did occur and correlated with higher doses of the mRNA-1273 vaccine as by anti–S-2P antibody GMT (geometric mean titer) ; 40,227 in the 25-μg group, 109,209 in the 100-μg group, and 213,526 in the 250-μg group.

With the second vaccination on day 57, the titers  had again showed increased antibody GMT when tested; 299,751, 782,719, and 1,192,154 μg. Serum-neutralizing activity (antibody that defends a cell from a pathogen or infectious particle by neutralizing any effect it has biologically) was detected by two methods in all participants evaluated, with values generally similar to those in the upper half of the distribution of a panel of control convalescent serum (blood serum containing antibodies  from disease or inoculation) specimens.

Adverse effects, includes half of the participants were fatigued, exhibiting chills, headache, myalgia, with pain at the injection site. Systemic adverse effects occurred after the second vaccination  particularly with the highest dosage. Three participants (21%) in the 250-μg dose group reported one or more severe adverse events.

The mRNA-1273 vaccine had induced anti–SARS-CoV-2 impact with an immune response in all participants of varying intensity with no trial-limiting safety concerns were identified.

mRNA-1273 vaccine was given a  Fast Track designation enrollment for a phase 2 trial at the end of May with an enrollment of 600 in 2 cohorts of those aged 18-55 years and those over 55 years.

A phase 3 trial involving 30,000 volunteers is receiving funding from BARDA and Operation Warp Speed. Participants in the study will receive either an injection of 100 μg mRA-1273 on Days 1 and 29 or a placebo.


Vaccine Name: Inactivated Vaccine
Company: Wuhan Institute of Biological Products; China National Pharmaceutical Group (Sinopharm)

The project involving Sinopharm and the Wuhan Institute of Virology are funded by the China Ministry of Science and Technology to achieve a goal of developing a vaccine utilizing inactivated vaccine. Phase 1 and 2 clinical trials with individuals of ages 6 and up are underway. As of June 16th, 1,120 volunteers participated in the phase 1 and 2 trials. The volunteers have received two injections of the vaccine at low, middle, or high dosing strengths or a placebo scheduled 14 days, 21 days or 28 days apart as reported by China National Biotec Group (CNBG). The seroconversion rate (time period during which a specific antibody develops and becomes detectable in the blood) for the 14-day and 21-day schedule of the mid-dose was 97.6%. At 28 days, it was 100%.

The Inactivate Vaccine appears to be working best at the middle strength when given 28 days apart. All participants in middle strength dosing regime developed neutralizing antibodies.

Sinopharm has initiated a phase 3 trial to evaluate their vaccine candidate in the United Arab Emirates. The country has authorized up to 15,000 participants aged 18 to 60 years to enroll.

China’s Sinopharm touts 100% antibody response for COVID-19 vaccine with workers

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